By Colonel Wes Martin

Providing his now legendary "Farewell Address" to the United States Military Academy, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur reflected on the words "Duty, Honor, Country." About these three words he stated, "They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for action; not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm; to have compassion on those who fail; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high."

While MacArthur was discussing the words "Duty, Honor, Country" he was also reflecting on personal courage. Without personal courage, it is difficult to accept personal failure. Inability to accept this failure inhibits the ability to learn and to achieve future successes when similar situations present themselves. Likewise, without personal courage, it is much easier to take the path of least resistance and seek the path of personal comfort. It is personal courage that allows someone to face the stress of difficult decisions and accept missions that do not guarantee success. Personal courage allows us to stand up in the storm (despite its origin) and to help others recover after the storm has knocked them down.

One of thousands of personal courage examples is founded in the allied soldiers of World War II’s European front. Following their success in North Africa and Sicily they stormed the beaches at Normandy and broke out of the hedgerows that could have cause a repeat of the World War I stalemate. They slugged across France, achieved victory at the Bulge, broke the Siegfried line, and liberated millions of people who were subjected to tyranny. In less than a year, from the beaches of Normandy to the heartland of Germany, they brought an end to the Thousand Year Reich.

Every day soldiers allied had to rely on personal courage to make difficult decisions. Sometimes they did not have time to think about their decisions. Instinct, experience and determination to do what was right made the decision for them. They had a goal that was high and they had the courage to stand against a storm that had darkened the world. They came through, not substituting words for action, not seeking the path of comfort, but accepting and overcoming stress and difficulty. They left us with a great legacy of courage proven on hundreds of battle fields.

Today, we are also challenged with the responsibility of personal courage. When we see wrong, we are expected to stand for right. We have been given an excellent example to follow. That example is not limited to allied soldiers who served humanity on the European front. That example was made by every professional soldier who had the courage to apply the principles of Duty, Honor, and Country. Rather than just the benefactors of that example and those principles, we have the responsibility to be the caretakers. Wewe should be earning the right to be judged in the same favorable light as those who have gone before.

©2021 Wes Martin